Laura Benanti
Laura Benanti

Laura Benanti Gets Ready to Set Sail on the Broadway Cruise

Like many of us, Laura Benanti is susceptible to motion sickness. But when she was asked to join a select group of top musical-theater stars who are performing on the Broadway Cruise — set to make its maiden voyage from New York to Bermuda and back between March 31 and April 5, 2023 — the Tony Award–winning actress and singer couldn’t say no.

“I feel like it will be a beautiful opportunity to be on a boat with people who love theater, and see a beautiful place,” says Benanti. She has set sail only once before, also as an entertainer: “It was a gay cruise to Alaska, years ago, and it was honestly one of the best times I’ve ever had. I brought my mom, my dad, and my sister, and we were with the LGBTQ+ community, and it was just magical. And now, to be with my fellow theater nerds — or theater lovers — will be super fun.”

Those theater lovers and nerds will include Benanti’s coheadliners Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, and satirist Randy Rainbow, along with special guest Michael Cerveris. Sierra Boggess, Lena Hall, Joshua Henry, and Jeremy Jordan are also set to perform, with Broadway veterans such as set designer David Korins and choreographer Kelly Devine lending their artistry to the proceedings.

“Everybody’s doing a full show, so there will be multiple shows each day of the cruise,” Benanti says. And while she hasn’t conferred with the other stars yet, “I have a feeling we’ll make some appearances in each other’s shows. That would be fun.”

Benanti’s own program will likely include favorites from shows she has starred in, she says, “like The Sound of Music and ‘Vanilla Ice Cream’ [from She Loves Me] and ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ [from My Fair Lady]. And then I’m pretty obsessed with Sondheim, so Sondheim will be in there.”

Travelers can also expect a song or two from the self-titled album Benanti released in 2020, such as her jazzy, witty cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Wives and Lovers,” “which is just so ludicrous,” she says. “And I always like to do a Joni Mitchell song, since I love her so much. What I tend to do is look at the songs and think of stories that connect them. What I’m terrible at is structuring them for my voice — so that, you know, I’m not belting and then singing a high D.”

While Benanti has earned wide acclaim for her cabaret performances, she says the medium isn’t a natural one for her. “Even the word cabaret feels so woman-in-a-sparkly-pantsuit-draped-over-a-piano, which is not my vibe. I’m pretty loosey-goosey; I like to play off the audience, to improvise. I always have a road map, of course — I just like to take detours.”

Benanti’s life offstage has required more structure in recent years, since she and husband Patrick Brown welcomed their first child, Ella, who will turn 6 on Valentine’s Day. In July, Benanti and Brown became parents of a second daughter, Georgia.

“I’m able to do it,” Benanti says of juggling her career with motherhood, “because I have help. My husband is an unbelievable father. We don’t have typical gender roles, which works because he is egoless in that way. He’s incredibly talented and has many projects, but he works from home, so he takes on a lot of the ‘mom’ jobs. It’s funny, because sometimes people ask, ‘Is he babysitting?’ And I say, ‘No, he’s continuing to be a father.’”

Benanti notes, “We also have a nanny. I truly do not know how single parents do it, or how people who cannot afford to have help are expected to hold down jobs. Believe me, I’m the person who deserves the least amount of congratulations for working and having children.”

Benanti’s recent and ongoing work has included shooting episodes for HBO Max’s The Gilded Age, as well as two upcoming films: the comedy No Hard Feelings, in which she and Matthew Broderick appear as the parents of a character played by Andrew Barth Feldman, and a horror movie called The Shade, which she describes as “crazy-scary. We’re filming in a place in rural Massachusetts where there’s only one motel, and I’ve been running through my roster of friends to see who I can bring with me, because I’m afraid to sleep by myself.”

Parenthood has become a prominent factor in Benanti’s professional choices. “I’m away from home a couple of days here, a couple of days there, never for an extended period of time. The longest I’ve been away was for Gilded Age, which was about two weeks, and that was really hard. My husband and I decided we’re going to figure out a week for it to not be more than a week.”

Since Benanti lives outside New York, that means Broadway will also take a back seat, at least for a while. “I miss it so much,” she admits. “Every time I go to see a show, I literally sob. My husband and I have been talking about it, and I would absolutely do a short run of something, like Encores!” — the celebrated concert series staged Off-Broadway at City Center — “but for longer-running shows, I’ll have to wait until my girls are a little older, because being their mom is the most meaningful thing to me. But I absolutely miss it, every single day.”